It’s hard to comprehend the ability of supposedly well-educated, intelligent people to shut out the blatantly obvious. Britain holds the Presidency for COP26, and at the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow at the end of last year, our leaders asked the world to turn its back on coal. And yet, just three months on, the UK government is busy issuing new licences to dig for coal and drill for oil.
Change will be forced upon us…
The people making these decisions know we need to move to sustainable forms of energy, and quickly, or face catastrophe. Most of them have children, and will have grandchildren too, if they haven’t already. And yet, just a few months after being immersed in the grim reality of anthropomorphic climate change, they’ve allowed themselves to be tempted back to the path of destruction by the potential wealth-giving powers of the fossil fuel lobby (who, presumably, also have children). The question is, how long will our politicians and industry leaders have to enjoy the riches they are amassing, before the entire ecosystem collapses in on itself and the human race is wiped out, along with most other life forms on the planet?
It would be very convenient to blame ‘The Establishment’ for our impending demise, but are us lower mortals any better? When so many people still choose to jump into their car to make a two-hundred metre journey? When the number of over-sized, over-powered vehicles on the roads continues to rise? When the road-sides are strewn with litter? When so many people can’t even be bothered to put packaging into the recycling, rather than the rubbish bin? I could go on (some people might say that I do!)
Dogs are a case in point. There was a long running campaign (possibly by the RSPCA) intended to make people consider the responsibility involved, rather than just thinking, ‘ooh, that looks cute; lets get one’. Today, dogs are trendy; a fashion accessory. And company while working at home during the pandemic. But what happens when you have to go back to work? There are now around twelve million dogs in the UK alone, and a study has indicated that the sheer quantity of faeces and urine from dogs is actually changing the ecosystems of our natural spaces. We know that meat production has a disproportionate effect on the environment, and that we should be eating less of it. Dogs, on the other hand, eat almost nothing but meat.
Having a conversation about the contribution to climate change of population is difficult. It touches nerves, runs contrary to people’s animal instincts. You only have to suggest that maybe people should show some constraint with their family planning, rather than having just as many children as they choose, to find yourself being compared to the Nazis. But if we can’t even have that conversation about populations of species other than our own, then what chance do we stand?
What is it with us humans? How is it that an animal with such a large brain and an impressive intellect can possess such an innate ability to ignore the obvious, even at the expense of its own survival? As a species, we’re running towards a metaphorical cliff edge, and apparently enjoying it so much we just can’t bring ourselves to change direction. We know that if we don’t stop we’ll go over the edge and fall to our deaths, but somehow, we just can’t imagine it happening. Surely we’ll just launch ourselves into the void and fly away?
So what can writers do about climate change? We can write, of course. Journalists and article writers can write factual pieces to make sure the public is informed about the damage human activity is doing to the world we live in, and what can be done to reduce the damage. Novelists can be more creative, in helping people to understand what the future could look like if we don’t act.
People trust the written word – more than they ought to. It’s why fake news gathers traction, and why British newspapers get away with dis-ingenuity and lies to further the interests of their wealthy owners. It’s up to us to balance things out; to make sure the truth is out there. Who knows; maybe we can make a difference?
Text & dog cartoon © Graham Wright 2022